Illinois Jacquet - tenor sax, bassoon
Milt Buckner - organ
Alan Dawson - drums
George Duvivier - bass (on "Caravan")
The great saxophonist, famed for his gritty, R&B-tinged solo on Lionel Hampton's 1942 hit record, "Flying Home," had one of the most unique doubles in the history of jazz. Along with his robust work on tenor sax, Illinois Jacquet also played the bassoon fluently and swung hard on that unwieldy double reed woodwind instrument. He brought both axes to the bandstand for his appearance at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival. Introduced by emcee Billy Taylor as "a gentleman who is known for instant swing," Jacquet takes the stage with the pioneering organist Milt Buckner and the great Boston-based drummer Alan Dawson (who was teacher and mentor for a teenaged Tony Williams). And he imbues his set with old school charm and unrelenting swing.
They open their July 3rd concert with a bouyantly swinging rendition of the popular show tune "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," from the successful Burton Lane-Alan Lerner musical of the same name that opened on Broadway two years earlier. After stating the familiar melody on his horn, Jacquet's tenor is particularly raspy and full of syncopated swagger on the solo section, which is bolstered by Buckner's extroverted comping on the Hammond B-3. The ebullient Buckner also contributes a dynamic organ solo, dropping in hip quotes from "Let's Fall in Love," "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Lulu's Back in Town" along the way. Next up, Jacquet switches to bassoon for an exotic interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Caravan," which is underscored by Dawson's slick, swinging brushwork and features special guest George Duvivier on bass. Be sure to catch Jacquet's ultra-low-end coda at the end of that classic bit of Ellingtonia. Following a lively Buckner showcase on "Milt's Boogie Woogie," they close out their Newport set with a jumping take on "Lester Leaps In," the Count Basie anthem from 1939 immortalized by tenor sax icon Lester Young. Dawson fuels this jam with his Papa Jo Jones styled hi hat work at the outset before exploding into a surging uptempo groove. And Jacquet leads the way with bold tones, wild abandon and infinite capacity to swing.
Born Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet in Broussard, Louisiana on October 31, 1922, he grew up in Houston, Texas, where he played alto saxophone in his father's family band. After working regionally as a teenager with Milt Larkin's Orchestra, he relocated to Los Angeles in 1939 and began playing with the Nat King Cole Trio. He switched to tenor sax after joining the Lionel Hampton Orchestra in 1940 and two years later gained notoreity at age 19 for his honking tenor solo on "Flying Home," which became Hamp's theme song and is now widely regarded as one of the seminal R&B tunes. Jacquet left Hampton in 1943 to join Cab Calloway's band, appearing with the group in the movie Stormy Weather. He moved to New York City in 1946 to join the Count Basie Orchestra, replacing Lester Young in the lineup, and subsequently became a star soloist on Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concert tours through the 1950s.
Jacquet led various small groups during the 1960s and 1970s and in 1981 formed a big band which he continued to lead into the 1990s. Along with playing at the Village Vanguard in New York and at jazz festivals around the world, one of Jacquet's shining moments in the latter part of his career was plaing Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues" with President Bill Clinton on the White House Lawn during Clinton's inaugural ball. He died at his home in Queens, New York of a heart attack on July 22, 2004 at age 81. -- Bill Milkowski